Wyatt: Larry MacPhail, the oddball genius

From Daniel Wyatt at The National Pastime Museum on February 21, 2017:

Born in 1890 into a well-off family in Cass City, Michigan, Leland Stanford “Larry” MacPhail was a flashy dresser, a playboy, a hot-tempered loudmouth, and a heavy drinker. He was also a shrewd judge of talent and a no-holes-barred, go-getting innovator. Some called him a spendthrift. To that, his answer was simple: You have to spend money to make money.

A World War I vet and a lawyer by trade running his own law office in Columbus, Ohio, MacPhail received his first taste of baseball in 1930 as part-owner of the Columbus Red Birds, a St. Louis Cardinals Double A affiliate. A $100,000 loan from MacPhail’s father and an endorsement from Cardinals GM Branch Rickey—a University of Michigan Law School classmate of MacPhail—cemented the deal. By the time MacPhail sold his portion of the Red Birds four years later, the team was outdrawing the Cardinals and making money despite the fully entrenched Great Depression. Later, MacPhail made his mark as GM for three different Major League teams: Cincinnati Reds, Brooklyn Dodgers, and New York Yankees, with his greatest achievement being the Dodgers.

MacPhail’s first in a series of gutsy accomplishments brought night baseball to the Majors, which he did in his second year as Cincinnati’s GM. For a number of years in the early 1930s, the second-division Reds had been facing bankruptcy, averaging only 3,000 fans for weekly games at Crosley Field. Seeing the positive effects of night baseball in the minors, MacPhail convinced owner Powel Crosley Jr. to invest $50,000 ($850,000 today) in a massive GE lighting system. When finished, Crosley Field had ready 632 beams placed on eight towers.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/larry-macphail-oddball-genius

Originally published: February 21, 2017. Last Updated: February 21, 2017.